Rajasthan Diaries/ 3: Amer Fort

Our first night in Jaipur ended on an epic note with vodka cocktail we made in our room coupled with funny videos on YouTube. Next morning we were determined to explore more places than going berserk over skirts and shoes. We were on a major ‘money-saving’ mission so we went for a humble breakfast session. (Huh. Shoes are more important than food.) After that we hopped on a toto whose driver was determined to take us to some market and we were adamant about not going there. So as a result he refused to take us and we had to find another vehicle. That’s another thing about Jaipur – every single auto driver will want to take you to some market or shop that inevitably offers the cheapest and the best rate. We managed to dodge some; we fell prey to some.


In between another thing happened that I must mention here. I was out of cash so we headed to a nearby SBI ATM after breakfast. We saw no crowd outside but a cluster of people surrounding the machine inside. Apparently nobody in Jaipur would mind a thing if you poke your nose while someone is drawing their money. I was on my ‘incredible India’ mode and found this to be pretty interesting. If the same thing happened in Calcutta? Well, people would start quarreling so much that everyone would end up forgetting their respective ATM pins. But as I said, Jaipur is that quintessential Indian city where nothing really seems odd. You can simply shrug and say, “Well, we are Indians after all” and move on. Nobody would bat an eyelid.

Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar was one of the five observatories built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II during the eighteenth century. Neither of us understood anything about a single instrument but we were just happy to be roaming in a place that did not exhibit a shameless display of unjustly acquired wealth. Not to mention it has a breathtaking view of the Amer Fort. The only that I could relate to was the Rashi Valaya Yantra or the Zodiac Cycle.


Sagittarius!

After Jantar Mantar we bought ourselves some Rajasthani matka kulfis and headed for our next destination – Jal Mahal. It was a disappointment. We had thought we would get to visit the palace but we ended up in the park across the lake with the palace in the background. We are Jupiter children so we know how not to remain bogged down by disappointment for long. So we opted for a photoshoot in traditional attire and by the time we left the park and boarded the bus to Amer Fort we were feeling excited again.




Amer Fort was the most amazing place we visited in Jaipur. The massive structure perched on a hilltop is visible from various parts of Jaipur but when the bus halted in front of it we got off with our mouths open. Amer Fort is beautiful. It was built during the reign of Maharaja Man Singh and it remained the centre of the Kachwaha dynasty until Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II shifted the capital to Jaipur in 1727, owing to a severe water crisis in Amer.





Amer Fort is best explored with a guide, and preferably with a Govt. appointed one. The private ones lurk about outside the main premises of the fort. It is advisable not to fall prey to their ardent calls. We took a Govt. approved one and he showed us around the entire palace with much gusto and devotion. We roamed about in Diwan-e-aam, Diwan-e-khaas, Sheesh mahal, queens’ apartment with him explaining the history of everything. The details of the motifs at the Sheesh Mahal were as amazing as the engineering of the place. The funniest and the saddest part came with the queens’ residence. Raja Man Singh had twelve queens. And every queen had her own apartment with a secret passage from the king’s apartment connecting each of them. So that the horny king could visit whomsoever he wished without inducing jealousy or resentment among others. Not to mention, the queens were not allowed to interact with each other. We couldn’t suppress our appalled laughter when our guide explained to us with a very serious face that none of the maid-servants were allowed to spend night with a queen in order to prevent any homosexual activity during the king’s long absence owing to a war or something. Chauvinism and misogyny at its best.





However, the tour through the fort was a great experience. And we ended our tour upon deciding that we were better off being normal, peasant people. Being queen is not our cup of tea.



The ancient village of Amer could be seen from the fort. It consists of several old temples and dilapidated houses, some of them were abandoned. It was our sheer great luck that we got to visit a Krishna temple nearby. The priest’s assistant was beside himself seeing unusual visitors and he told us the detailed history of the temple and its idol. He also mentioned that only the lucky ones got to see Meerbai’s Lord Krishna residing there. All my life I have never been much of religious person. But I can spot a subtle change in me these days. And when the garrulous Rajput guy was putting heavenly smelling sandalwood teeka on our forehead, I could feel a lump in my throat. I didn’t know I could be worthy of a lucky encounter with the god.




To be continued

Read the other episodes here.

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